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Lawsuit puts Steelers licenses in hot seat

Thursday, October 19, 2000

By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In life, finding a job, getting married, having a baby are important issues for most people.

But for one Beaver County couple, getting season tickets to Steelers games is an issue that's really important.

It's also the focus of a lawsuit coming up for a hearing tomorrow in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Gerald and Laurie Seelinger are suing the Steelers and a former South Hills woman, Catherine Kosak, in an attempt to gain possession of Kosak's tickets for two seats in the new Steelers stadium, which is set to open in August.

For 20 years, Kosak has had season tickets to Steelers games at Three Rivers Stadium, but she moved to Arizona in September 1996.

According to papers filed in the lawsuit, she's never actually met the Seelingers but agreed through a mutual friend to sell her tickets to them since she was living out of state and could no longer go to the games.

Earlier this year, Kosak decided to let her brother have her tickets instead, according to the lawsuit.

Another complication arose when the Steelers, like many other National Football League teams, decided to charge a fee for "personal seat licenses" at their new 65,000-seat stadium. Before fans can buy season tickets for the best seats in the new stadium, they first must buy the seat licenses, which the Steelers call Stadium Builders Licenses.

According to the lawsuit, Kosak agreed in December 1998 to let the Seelingers pay her for the seat licenses -- a total of $4,320 to be paid in three installments of $1,440 each.

They sent her a check for the first one-third of the money in December 1998 and a second payment in October 1999.

But in April, Kosak told the Seelingers she didn't want to go through with the seat-license deal because she had decided to sell her tickets to her brother.

Although she's willing to refund their money, the Seelingers consider her to be in "breach of contract."

They sent her the third and final payment in June, but she didn't cash the check and later returned it.

Reached by phone yesterday, Gerald Seelinger declined to comment, referring questions to his lawyer, William Weiler Jr. of Cranberry. Weiler said he'll go to court tomorrow to seek an injunction to prevent the Steelers from selling the seat licenses to Kosak.

Because there are a limited number of Stadium Builders Licenses -- the Steelers decided to limit them to about 50,000 -- the price for unencumbered licenses would almost certainly be more than the $4,320 the Seelingers have already paid to Kosak for those offered to her as a season ticket holder, Weiler said. That's why they want to go through with the deal rather than simply having their money refunded.

"There is no way my clients can replace the [Stadium Builders Licenses]" at the price of $4,320, Weiler said. "These [seat] licenses are unique. We want an injunction to prohibit the Steelers from disbursing these two [licenses to Kosak] until this matter is resolved."

The Steelers initially sold seat licenses as a one-time cost of from $250 to $2,700 each.

Part of the seat license contract prohibits a buyer from selling or transferring his license to someone else for one year from the time the stadium opens in August. After that, the seat license may be sold by the individual for any amount.

Kosak's lawyer, Wiley Bucey Jr. of Mt. Lebanon, referred a reporter to legal papers he's filed in the case.

"Kosak never met [the Seelingers]," the papers state, "never talked to them, never wrote to them and never heard from them" until she received the June 13 letter.

"Kosak never agreed to sell her [Stadium Builders Licenses] to anyone," the papers state. "Kosak, by her counsel, informed [the Seelingers] she would not sell her [seat licenses] to them. It is denied a contract ever existed between Kosak and persons she never met. ... Further, it is denied Kosak ever intended to surrender to anyone Steelers season tickets she had owned for 20 years."

Steelers spokesman Ron Wahl declined to comment on the specifics of the Seelingers' lawsuit.

He did say that about 49,000 Stadium Builders Licenses have been sold and "less than 1,000" remain. He said buyers have been told the sections where they'll be sitting in the new stadium, but exact seat assignments haven't been disclosed yet.

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